Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest is anything that could affect one’s impartiality in practice, or tempt one to compromise their professional ethics. It occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests where one could possibly influence the other. It is the appearance of a conflict of interest that matters. A dietitian’s intentions and actions may be entirely honorable, but if others perceive that there is a conflict of interest, then there is one.
Potential situations where a dietitian may be tempted to put someone (e.g. self or friend) other than the patient first:
-Using personal status or influence for gain (e.g. endorsement of a friend’s service)
-Conferring a benefit (e.g. referral to a friend’s service)
-Receiving a benefit (e.g. receiving a gift from a sales representative)
-Selling products for profit (see Position Statement on the Recommendation, Endorsement and Sale of Products).
-Interactions with clients that go beyond professional duties raises the possibility that the dietitian is receiving a benefit for something offered or taking unprofessional advantage of their position (e.g. using a client’s personal belongings)
-Incentives (e.g. coupon)
-Personal beliefs or convictions (e.g. treating a client differently because of religious or moral belief)
A conflict of interest may be managed through DORM. DORM is an acronym that describes safeguards used to manage a conflict of interest. Some conflicts should not be managed through DORM, but avoided all together.
-Openness and transparency with the client or relevant other(s) about the nature of the conflict and of any potential benefit.
-Providing a client with options to ensure an informed choice.
-Reassuring the client that their choice will not impact the quality of services you provide.
-A modification may remove or reduce the potential for conflict.
References: CDO Jurisprudence Handbook (chapter 9) and The Nova Scotia College of Medical Laboratory Technologists (2016). Professional Practice for Medical Laboratory Technologists in Nova Scotia.
Resources: Conflict of Interest and RD Practice (CDO) and Conflict of Interest in Dietetic Practice: How to Handle Competing Interests (CDO)